What is the difference between B2B and B2C in marketing?

Updated: Apr 19

B2B and B2C are common terms in the marketing world, and understanding the differences between the two is very straightforward. However, the marketing processes that result from their distinctions aren't as intuitive. In this post, we'll briefly touch on some key differences between B2B and B2C as it related to targeted marketing.

First off, although most people understand the difference between B2B and B2C, it's important to define them. Let’s start with B2B (Business to Business) marketing, which is the act of marketing a product or service from one business to another. Many products and services aren't designed for consumers, rather they exist to help other businesses and their daily operations. At first glance, marketing a B2B product/service may seem difficult, as the number of businesses in the world is much lower than the number of consumers; however this actually is not the case. To a data-marketer, knowing who our ideal client is makes targeting more straightforward.

B2C, as you might have guessed, stands for Business to Consumer (or customer depending on who you ask, but that's inherently wrong). B2C is the act of marketing a product or service to the end user/consumer. For example, Microsoft marketing their latest Xbox model to gamers (or parents of gamers) via advertisements to increase their sales is B2C marketing. In general, when you receive an ad trying to sell you (not your business) something, this is B2C marketing, as you are the end consumer.

These two terms are understandably different, now let's take a look at the fundamental marketing differences that result from targeting these two different types of people.

Who is the decision maker?

Like we said, B2B marketing is for businesses and organizations, which means you need to get your product in front of owners, CEO’s, or higher-level managers. Getting your product in front of lower-level employees probably won't lead to a conversion, as they can’t make financial decisions for the company. For small businesses, the decision makers are almost always the owners, so marketing for them is relatively straightforward. If the business is larger, there could be multiple levels of decision making. This is why targeted marketing is so important for B2B, because without specialized targeting, marketing towards these individuals becomes much more challenging. This is precisely why data-driven marketing is so effective for B2B clients. For B2C however, the consumer that sees your advertisement is the decision maker—you don’t need to concern yourself with anything else. Figure out how to convince this person to buy a given product, and you’re set.

What kind of content is most effective for each group?

B2B individuals make inquiries/ purchasing decisions based on how useful the product would be for their company. These purchasing decisions are driven by their corporate bottom-line, meaning they must believe that your product will improve their operations and increase revenue. This is why, generally speaking, B2B content is more straightforward and geared towards being informational. You need your value proposition to shine through in your advertisement and quickly catch their attention. B2C individuals can use this rationale as well, however these are products geared towards use in everyday life, not in a corporate setting. Most consumers don’t have a bottom-line (although their bank account might have something to say about this), so purchases are meant to improve their livelihood or entertain them. The content can be informational, but above all else it needs to be interesting enough to grab their attention while also being visibly pleasing. Essentially what a marketer is looking for is content that triggers an emotional response, as they are hoping the individual will connect with the brand.

How long are B2B / B2C sales “in the funnel” for? How do they compare?

The B2B sales cycles tend to be much longer than B2C, because unless you’re dealing with a small company, most businesses and corporations have several levels of decision makers to pass through. Each level will not only factor in corporate budget, but also the pros and cons of the product and whether it will increase revenue. As you might expect, this process can drag on, which is why B2B marketers focus on getting the right content in front of the highest-level decision maker from the beginning. Getting your advertisement in front of the right individual is also very important with B2C, however the conversion process can be much quicker. If an individual is accurately targeted with a product, they might make an immediate purchase, since they defer to no one except their own bank account. If they don’t purchase but do react and show interest in the content, they will be retargeted further down the marketing funnel. How long someone stays within the B2C marketing funnel will determine if a sales cycle for B2C is actually quicker than B2B, but in general, it tends to be.

What are typical client relationships in B2B and B2C marketing?

Historically, a B2B relationship is more of a long-term affair compared to B2C, which is why B2B products are rarely sold entirely within the funnel. For B2B, building personal relationships between businesses is crucial for marketing success, which is often done via phone calls, zoom meetings, or personal business conferences. A B2C relationship is slightly different. At its core, a B2C relationship is short term, “you made a purchase, we’re happy” kind of relationship. Getting one sale is great, however the ultimate goal for B2C should always be to create brand equity. What is meant by brand equity is that a consumer "buys into" the brand for one reason or another. This is the ultimate goal, because it converts one time customers into repeat customer without needing to advertise to that individual again; they actively seek out your brand. When you get a consumer to buy into the idea of your product, the long-term value of that customer increases immensely.

Before we end this article, it should be noted that nothing we talked about above is set in stone. Regardless of B2B or B2C, every marketing campaign is unique and should be carefully examined before making any impactful changes to your strategy. The information we gave above is simply the classic differentiation between B2B and B2C, which we believe helps marketing teams drive both engagement and sales. If you've read our other blog post about data-driven marketing, you know how this targeted marketing takes place. You should now be up to speed on the role that data plays in a marketing campaign, why strategies differ, and how it's used differently from B2B and B2C.

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